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Elections BC orders BC Liberals to return charity donations

Elections BC today ordered the B.C. Liberal Party to return a $350 donation from the Vancouver Art Gallery, a charity organization prohibited from giving to political parties under the provincial Election Act.

The Liberals were also ordered to return $1,950 last month to the physics laboratory TRIUMF, a nationally recognized charity, according to the UBC student newspaper the Ubyssey.

Deputy chief electoral officer for Elections BC Nola Western emphasized that the Election Act allows parties to return donations found to be illegal without any further repercussions.

"The Election Act clearly anticipated that this is going to happen," Western said. "It's not that uncommon and I think political parties do their best in most cases to identify prohibited contributions."

The elections agency was notified about the donation by IntegrityBC, according to a letter signed by Western thanking the organization for alerting her to the donation.

In a press release, IntegrityBC executive director Dermod Travis said that since the law prohibiting charities from donating to political parties has existed for 10 years, "ignorance of the rule as an excuse is long past its best before date."

However, Western said parties often take money without knowing the donor is a charitable organization, and some charities simply don't know it is against the law to donate to political parties.

Parties commonly return illegal donations on their own before Elections BC identifies the need to do so, but sometimes "something slips through," according to Western.

There is no specific time frame set for the party to return the money, but they must do so before they submit their next financing report to Elections BC, according to Western. Otherwise it is considered an offence.

A representative from the B.C. Liberal Party did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Hanah Redman is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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